25 September, 2021

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Confidence Building Needed For Reconciliation Process To Restart 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government is making a resolute effort to turn Sri Lanka around and put it in the direction of rapid economic development. The systematic manner in which it has been conducting the Covid vaccinations has earned recognition by WHO as well as the international community. The value of the military in getting things done on a large scale with minimum of delay has been manifested in the partnership that they have struck with the health authorities. The memory is fading of how some of the government leaders dabbled in alchemy and the spirit world to find an antidote to the COVID virus, despite being vested with the responsibility to strengthen the health of the country’s people. There is also increased space being given to civil society to engage in protests, such as the protracted teachers’ strike and the agitation against the expanding mandate of the Kotelawala Defence University.

The government is likewise making an effort to get the national reconciliation process underway again. A tweet from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with regard to undertaking reconciliation in partnership with the UN and according to international standards is prominent in the news. This poses an opportunity that comes rarely in history to make a true mark and leave a legacy. Government leaders have been engaging with members of civil society to obtain their inputs on the way forward. But the path ahead is not likely to be easy. This is a government that campaigned for its election victory on an entirely different political platform. The victory of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019 whose team championed the nationalism of the majority Sinhalese seemed to signify the end of the reconciliation process that had preoccupied the previous government at its beginning.

So far the high point of Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process has been the efforts that accompanied the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015. The main themes at that election were to get the economy back to a fast track through foreign direct investments, putting an end to corruption that had gone out of control, and bringing about national reconciliation. The first two themes were meant to appeal to the population as a whole while the third, reconciliation, was targeted more at the ethnic and religious minorities. However, President Sirisena’s government was handicapped from the start as he won the presidential election only narrowly and the majority of the Sinhalese did not vote for him. It was the large majority of support he obtained from the religious and ethnic minorities that took him over the 50 percent mark to victory.

Previous Experience 

The campaign for the general election that followed the presidential election of 2015 set the tone for the rest of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government. In their election campaigns, neither President Sirisena nor Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were specific about their plans for a resolution of the country’s protracted ethnic conflict. They did not wish to present controversial political proposals prior to the elections and alienate the majority Sinhalese voter base at the forthcoming general elections. Sri Lanka was at a fortuitous place where the international community stood ready to assist the positive initiatives of its government and the government was willing to accept such assistance. However, imperatives of electoral politics intervened to the detriment of the national reconciliation process.

Due to the mixed signals that emerged out of this two track process, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was unable to win the confidence of the Tamil people as a whole. This was evident in the reception to the first of the transitional justice institutions that was established. The Office on Missing Persons was set up in keeping with the pledges made by the government to the international community at the UN Human Rights Council session in 2015 in Geneva. It took two years for the OMP to be set up according to law. The persons appointed as Commissioners had a high degree of credibility in civil society and with the international community. However, the problem was that the victim community that was to be the beneficiary of this process were not familiar with the commissioners and had no confidence that the process of change would yield what they wanted.

In these circumstances, the OMP experienced difficulties when they went to the former war zones to engage in fact finding and to establish their presence. They found that the local civil society and especially victims groups, such as the families of those missing, were generally skeptical about whether this OMP exercise was a genuine effort or not. On occasion protestors came and blocked the venues where the commissioners were to hold the meetings. The objections included that the OMP was a government ploy to deceive both the victims and the international community and buy time to delay the process. This showed that confidence building measures were needed prior to launching initiatives that required the cooperation of those who were on the other side of the divide.

Powerful Symbols 

There are different explanations regarding the protests that took place against the attempts of the OMP to set up field offices in the former war zones of the North and East. One was that those who were in the forefront of protests were being set up by hardline sectors of the Tamil Diaspora who wanted the reconciliation process to fail so that they could carry on with their fight for a separate state of Tamil Eelam. Another explanation was that the Tamil community as a whole did not trust the Sri Lankan state to be fair by them and wanted a greater degree of international participation in the reconciliation process. The Tamil experience of national mechanisms has not been positive. Today after five decades of government policies of educational standardization and quota systems, the education level of the Northern province is at the bottom whereas in the first two decades after independence it was at the top.

The sceptics were proved right with regard to the transitional justice process under the last government. The establishment of the OMP was slower than anticipated. This was not only due to the rejection of the institution by activist sections of the Tamil community, but was also due to administrative weaknesses at the central level. The setting up of the OMP as an institution became a protracted and slow process with various Administrative and Financial Regulations of the government standing in the way, driving even the commissioners to frustration. For example, the salaries offered to those who would be legal officers in the OMP were below the market rate for lawyers with the necessary competence to take on such a sensitive and controversial matter. In addition, as the political climate became more difficult for the government, even the top leaders of the last government began to distance themselves from the transitional justice process.

The challenge for the present government will be to convince the ethnic and religious minorities that is serious about the new reconciliation process that it is trying to put in motion. There needs to be confidence building measures prior to making the changes that require cooperation from those on the opposite side. The President’s tweet is important as it has set the tone for future engagements by the government both with the international community and within the country. The government actions that follow the President’s tweet need to be in conformity with its spirit. The protest in the Mullaitivu District where the last battles of the war were fought, where people are protesting publicly against their lands being taken for the expansion of an army camp needs to be heeded. The immediate release of those incarcerated for many years without trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act could be another symbol of reconciliation.

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Latest comments

  • 18
    1

    Jehan, these guys will never ever indulge in any form reconcilliation. These fellows are surviving on Sinhala Buddhsit racism and coming to power using this to hoodwink the majority sinhalese. Even the Muslim terrorist attack looks like manipulated to come to power. This corrupt family has ruined the country to maximum and there is no chance for any form of recovery or reconcilliation. Gotta wont allow national anthem to be sung in tamil and dont allow them to remember the dead relatives. What worse than this any guy can do? Now the country has hit the rock bottom and lost credibility even from the 6.9 million misled sinhala voters and no where to burrow money and now trying another stunt of reconcilliation. Mind you no one will believe you guys. Gota thinks that minority will believe his lies and bring their money to SL and redeem him of his massive loans. You destroy hindu kovils and replace them with buddhsit temple with military force. N &E archaeology is managed by exclusive sinhalese who cook up histories and planting boru evidence. Let him keep on printing currencies until a loaf of bred will be Rs1000 and then see what happens. Look at the guys in the parliament and their honesty, intergrity and capability and can anyone run a country with such goons.

    • 1
      4

      Black Lankan,
      “This corrupt family has ruined the country to maximum and there is no chance for any form of recovery or reconcilliation.”
      —-
      This may be the view of guys suffering from ‘Defeat-Syndrome’ after facing a humiliating defeat due to the military operation carried out under the leadership of Rajapakshes to eliminate Tamil terrorists who terrorized the people in this country for three decades. Tamils who waged war against Native Sinhalayo after passing Vaddukkodei Resolution to create a separate State lost the war. So, what is the point in talking about reconciliation? Tamils should accept the defeat and learn to live with Native Sinhalayo peacefully in a Unitary State. Those who are not comfortable with that are free to return to their ancestral Homeland in India without grumbling.

  • 7
    0

    Reconciliation extends to doing whatever it takes to completely solve an issue which the majority of citizens are against according to their own reasons of living well. The government is for the people and not to establish a family dynasty of average leaders with average brains to be falsely and deceptively exalted. After printing so much, all it takes is to print more rupees, pay the teachers whose job is essential for the welfare of the future of education of this nation. With multiple issues, at least solve one realistically for the masses.

  • 6
    9

    No one in SL wants reconciliation now.

    They want food, jobs, vaccines, land, business, vehicles, etc. Not reconciliation.

    • 6
      3

      Southern Thullukachchi Pathima Jadam, we all know that not only you but 99% of the island’s Thullukans do not want any sort of reconciliation between the island’s Chingkallams ( most of whom are racist to the core anyway and only vote for racists who promise to marginalize the Thamizh) and Thamizh , as Thullkans, will not be able to thrive, it is in their interest to keep the Chingkallams and Thamizh at each others throats, whilst they benefit and take everything from the Thamizh . Jobs, land, business , vehicles etc, as stated by you, It is not no one in Sri Lanka who do not want reconciliation but Thullakans especially. As they thrive on the misery of others. So do the Chingkalla racists but their reason for not wanting reconciliation is different from the Thullukans, it is purely based on myths, racism and jealousy. You also need the Thamizh to be destroyed, as you need to steal their land to create an Arabic Salafist/Wahhabi homeland for you fake Arab, converted immigrant refugee Dravidian Thamizh community from South India.

      • 9
        2

        Funny the Chingkalla armed forces, establishment and this government is destroying ancient Hindu temples in the north and east and converting them to Buddhist temples , using fake concocted history by the archeological department and planted monuments, all in the name of Chingkalla Buddhist Fascism. Strangely, now in the name of mending relations with Hindia and to promote Hindu/Buddhist amity, ( do I laugh or cry?) the Chingkalla Sri Lankan government ,wants to present A stone from Sita Eliya, the place in Sri Lanka where mythical Goddess Sita is believed to have been held captive, (sic) and this stone will be used in the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and serve as a pillar of strength for India-Lanka ties. The Hindian High Commission in Colombo said. Is this a joke? Destroying real ancient Hindu temples in the North and East of the island and forcibly converting them to Buddhist places of worship and then donating some sort of mythical stone , on which mythical goddess Sita sat that will be used to build a Ram temple, again based on myth, somewhere in North India on a site where there was once a mosque. There is a saying in Thamizh ” Paddikirathu Thevaaram Iddikirathu Sivan Kovil” Meaning you sing praises to god, whilst destroying his temple. Or pinch the baby and then rock the cradle.

        • 6
          2

          However the Hindians and Chingkallams are rejoicing. The former has no concern the ancient Thamizh history and ancient Hindu temples are deliberately being destroyed in the North and East, in the name of Chingkalla Buddhist Fascism and has not whimpered or offered any form of protest, as most probably think these Hindu temples belong to the Thamizh, so does not matter like the Thamizh. Only rejoicing and celebrating with the Chingkallams of some stone on which some mythical goddess Sita sat, is now being sent to build a temple being built in honour of mythical Lord Rama consort of goddess Sita in Hindian heartland Ayodhaya on the site of a destroyed ancient mosque, by Hindian North Indian Hindu extremists, who claim this is the place the mythical Lord Rama was born. Very similar to what Chingkalla Buddhist extremists claims to ironically destroy ancient Hindu temples and the Thamizh North and East. What a joke and irony. Reconciliation indeed

        • 1
          2

          Pandi Kutti,
          “Funny the Chingkalla armed forces, establishment and this government is destroying ancient Hindu temples in the north and east and converting them to Buddhist temples,…?
          —-
          For your information, what happened in NE is quite the opposite. Before Dravida invasions NE was Sinhala Buddhist area. Dravida invaders massacred Sinhalayo and destroyed their settlements forcing Sinhalayo to leave the area. Dravidians destroyed Buddhist temples and built Hindu Kovils on top of them. The same thing was done by Dravidians who came to Yapanaya to work for colonial rulers. Ven. Ellawala Medhananda has identified several places in the North where Hindu Kovils have been built on Buddhist temples. This is done deliberately to prevent archeologists doing excavations. So, do not twist the truth to your advantage.

          For your information; it is not Chingkalla, it is Sinhala.

      • 2
        5

        Pandi Kutti,
        “…it is in their interest to keep the Chingkallams and Thamizh at each others throats, whilst they benefit…”
        —-
        This is exactly what separatist Tamil politicians who emerged in 1930s did which led to the conflict between Tamils and Sinhalayo. These politicians ruined the racial harmony prevailed in this country and did everything to keep the two communities apart for their political survival. G.G. Ponnambalam who was the father of racist politics in Sinhale started the anti-Sinhala Buddhist campaign in 1939 by delivering a racially charged speech at Nawalapitiya ridiculing Mahawamsa and denigrating the Sinhala-Buddhist culture, its history and the people igniting the first Tamil-Sinhala conflict. Ponnambalam discouraged Tamils learning Sinhala.
        SJV Chelvanayakam who came to Sinhale from Malaya during British rule formed Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (toned down as Federal Party in English) in 1949 which had as its hidden agenda the establishment of a separate state.
        Both Sinhala and Tamil communities paid a huge price for the blunders made by these narrow minded Tamil politicians.

  • 11
    2

    …. Undertaking reconciliation in partnership with the UN is prominent in the news.
    This is no news; this is what every government has been pretending to do, since end of war.
    .
    You promise; I’ll help you stall it. This is the mantra since Independence.
    .
    How do you move from a track record of confidence tricks to confidence building … ?

  • 7
    3

    Jehan PhD and conspiracy theorist Dinuk and the rest if Covid is well under control why Lady Ridge way has released statement yhey have no more beds for children. Apparently 70 are currently treated in house and daily 15 cases are reported. This is just children. CT please do send your kanatte correspondent/ Anthropologist to do a survey in hospitals instead cremation/ burial sites.

  • 6
    1

    Be realistic. Trust in government will only keep eroding, and that’s not our fault.
    .
    I don’t pretend to know where this will all end.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe

  • 5
    1

    JP wants the show to start so that some leave way can be negotiated at UNHRC in September 2021 when it is suppose to start the collection of evidence, which is any body’s guess.

    The ultimate aim of JP is to remove Sori Sinhala Lanka from the talk of supposed sanctions-imposed resolution at UNHRC in September 2021.

    Main reason for JP’s-wanted show is no body (countries, markets) is even ready to consider touching Sori Sinhala Lanka even by bargepole for any sort of finance (loans, bonds, swaps etc.) or deals with western countries’ murmur of sanctions-imposed resolution at UNHRC in September 2021.

  • 4
    2

    “In these circumstances, the OMP experienced difficulties when they went to the former war zones to engage in fact finding and to establish their presence. They found that the local civil society and especially victims groups, such as the families of those missing, were generally skeptical about whether this OMP exercise was a genuine effort or not.”

    OMP’s primary objective is to individually identify kith and kin of missing-persons’ families so that their searching, protests and external-intervention-seeking can be effectively eliminated by terror imposing division (TID) of Sori Sinhala Lanka.

  • 3
    0

    What this article appears to be saying is that the natives have been allowed to run to the end of a long rope and it is hoped that they have tired themselves out. The loot and plunder has become a block around the neck of those who looted and plundered. Criminal acts and acts against international law have turned into a slowly swaying sword of Damocles. The runaway mustang has been roped and is slowing down in its wild bid for freedom. Now harness and bridle can be imposed and the brute be led onto the training track. Soon is will surge forward at the races with uncle Sam on its back. Jehan fon Lay Dies College will watch the races with glee. He he hee see vee vin finally says hee.

  • 7
    2

    Jehan perera telling lies once again.
    The previous sirisena government was NOT involved in any real reconciliation.
    During their rule land grabbing and harassment of tamils in the NE was very much active.
    Just like it is right now. Just like it has been since colonial independence.
    If nandasena is really serious about reconciliation he will have to reverse all the land grabbing
    that has been going on, leave tamils in peace, stop pushing narcotics into the region (which is being done to encourage the tamil youth to self destruct), demilitarize the area etc

  • 5
    2

    It is the Federal system which can bring about or lay a foundation for Reconciliation Process. This is the truth which had proved very successful in Canada, Switzerland, India, etc. As it is, the implementation of the 13th Amendment in its true perspective is certain to be a confident building measure. It will remove all obstacles in both legal and political and prove to be formidable.

    • 2
      6

      AYATHURAY RAJASINGAM
      Ranil handed over about one third of the country to Tamils in the North who were only about 11% of the population to stop terrorism against Sinhalayo and waging war against Sri Lanka Armed Forces. Prabhakaran who operated a de facto Government in NE rejected the offer and continued to massacre members of the Armed Forces and Sinhalayo to grab a part of their country to create a separate State as stipulated in the Vaddukkodei Resolution. Because Tamils led by Prabhakaran discarded the terms in the Peace Accord, the Government of Sri Lanka had no other choice other than to eliminate Tamil terrorists using the Armed Forces. After rejecting the offer and facing a humiliating defeat, Tamils are again pleading the Government to devolve power, give Federal system and what not.
      —–
      “It is the Federal system which can bring about…”

    • 2
      0

      AR,
      P-Toms was sabotaged and thrown out in 2004/05 as unpatriotic and against the sovereignty of SL and its constitution.
      The same outcome or similar is now sought under the new FINANCE bill soon introduced by patriots, without declaring the source or how it was earned.
      It’s tantamount to money laundering, which is good and devolution is bad.
      The 13th amendment was proposed by India/SL agreement initially for the North East as a solution to the ethnic conflict in 1986/87.
      JRJ government amended to cover all 9 provinces so the citizens of the other 7 provinces also would like to experience the devolution of power and govern their areas.
      Thereafter they decided not to devolve and Police powers, claiming that it would be misused by the provincial authorities and to secede!
      In contrary, it is now patently clear to one and all, why it was retained by central government.
      To misuse and take over arbitrarily land from traditional North eastern SL owners/residents, without any oversight and valid reason to carry out demographic change of the North and Eastern provinces.
      Police powers misused by SL to cover up misdeeds of government authorities and coerce the citizens.

    • 0
      0

      A.R.
      Federal system in Sri Lanka will leave +50% of Tamils falling within Sinhala majority Federal units.
      Needless to say they will be instantly reduced to the status second class citizens.
      (Preference to live as second class citizens in Sinhala majority Federal units than first class citizens in the North which is to be expected for sure is leaving the problem to future generations)
      .
      Land powers will entail monopoly over natural resources which will be the primary bone of contention.
      .
      With police powers there will be mini wars.
      .
      Added to all that Perumals popping up now and then Sri Lanka will need huge military resources to keep it federal.
      .
      Instead all Tamil speaking people scattered across the island should unite to demand a SEPARATE Homeland for which the Sinhalese should unreservedly agree.

      Soma

  • 1
    6

    How can anyone expect reconciliation from the victims of terrorism launched by separatist Tamil politicians after passing the Vaddukkodei Resolution to create a separate State for the descendants of Tamils who came to Yapanaya to work for colonial rulers by grabbing land in the NE which is part of Sinhale, the Land of Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo unless those who declared war against Sinhalayo and massacred them for three decades apologize for the atrocities, war crimes and human rights violation committed against Native Sinhalayo. That should be the first step towards reconciliation.
    The strange thing is, almost all the guys who talk about reconciliation expect the victims of violence to approach those who used violence and say ‘Please forgive us’.

  • 1
    3

    A guy who took a leading role in passing the Vaddukkodei Resolution to create a separate State within Sinhale/Sri Lanka and declared war against Native Sinhalayo that tantamount to treason is leading a luxury life in a luxury house in Colombo provided by Sinhala tax payers. Sinhalayo did not come to the street and demonstrate against that decision taken by ‘Yahapalana’ Government as a goodwill gesture to help them to stay in power and ruin this country.
    Isn’t that reconciliation?
    —-
    After Tamil terrorists who massacred Sinhalayo for three decades were defeated, Sinhala Buddhists in the South sent lorry loads of food and other items to Yapanaya.
    Isn’t that reconciliation?

  • 0
    0

    Is it any wonder that JP wants this show on the eve of UN General Assembly sanctioning the finance for evidence collection mechanism, which was only the mere worthy part of last UNHRC resolution.

    Sori Lanka ( with active connivance of China and evil brutal Hindia) tried in vein to stop it and was not allowed to succeed.

    Now JP wants this show to start for negotiating out any fall out by the talk of sanction-imposed resolution in September 2021 and perhaps temporarily suspend the finance for evidence collection.

  • 1
    0

    “The government is likewise making an effort to get the national reconciliation process underway again.”
    Another cheating effort going from 2009. It will stop with this effort. Already we have seen to release the murderers. Latest effort is to release the murderers of 11 Tamils from the case.What a joke?

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